Appeals Court Expands Definition of Sexual Abuse

Appeals Court Expands Definition of Sexual Abuse

The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision that a father’s religious-based homosexuality and transgender comments constituted sexual abuse. This ruling buries the age-old “sticks and stones” proverb. It also opens the door for further sex abuse claims, especially since the legislature abolished the statute of limitations in these claims.


About three years ago, S. (as the child was identified in court documents) told his mother that he believed he was transgender. Mother denied steering S. toward identifying as transgender, but she did actively support S. by arranging for therapy and attending meetings of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (“PFLAG”).

When S. told Father that he identified as transgender, Father “opposed” his decision and refused to call him by his preferred name. S. subsequently engaged in the self-harming behavior of “cutting.”

Mother testified that S. is “scared” to be around his father, who is staunchly Christian and anti-LGBTQ+, because “he doesn’t feel support” and “doesn’t feel that S. can be himself.”

The couple’s younger child, N., allegedly had a similar experience. Mother was asked about her observations of N. when she drove him home from Father’s house. She testified that N. “seemed a little down and out, and was a little shaken up, and you know, I just asked if he was okay, and he said … ‘I am now.'” She testified that N. told her that when he told his father he was gay, his father said, “No, you’re not, but I love you anyway.”

Father testified that since 2019, he has not seen and does not have a relationship with S. He claims the lack of a relationship has “’nothing to do with h[im] wanting to be called S[.]’ or because he identifies as transgender but because Mother ‘encourages [father’s] isolation, alienation, and compartmentalization.’”

He added that “most” of the texts that he has sent to S. over the last couple of years relate to S. identifying as transgender and that his texts, which “’reflect[] the truth[,]’ are sent to present S. with an opposing view of the transgender community.”

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Upon the recommendation of the lawyers in the case, the court granted the protective order petition as to N., but denied the petition as to Mother and S. 

By a preponderance of the evidence, the court found that Father “has repeatedly communicated in person and through text messages homophobic comments and religious beliefs, causing mental injury to N[.] N[.] communicated to the court that he is fearful of his father because of his father’s anger and aggressiveness in the past and his reaction to him coming out as gay.” 

In ruling in N.’s favor, the father must adhere to the following:

  1. He shall not abuse or threaten to abuse N.
  2. He shall not enter N.’s residence.
  3. He may continue to have visitation as set forth in the previous order, but visitation with Father “can only occur if N[.] is comfortable doing so”
  4. He may call or text N. “but may not use that communication to abuse N[.] regarding sexual orientation and/or religion.”

Compassionate Sexual Abuse Survivor Attorneys on Call

This ruling is a groundbreaking one in favor of sexual abuse and harassment survivors everywhere. We here at The Yost Legal Group are here to listen and here to help if you are ready to talk.

If you or a loved one has survived sexual abuse, contact our experienced sexual abuse survivor lawyers today. You are not at fault, and you are not alone. When you are ready, call The Yost Legal Group: 1-800-967-8529.